Nick Martinez Should Be First To Lose A Spot In Rangers’ Rotation
After Wednesday’s performance against the Baltimore Orioles, Nick Martinez has now lost five of his last six decisions. 2015 has been a Jekyll and Hyde season for the young starter who had a 0.35 ERA in April, a 3.25 ERA in May but a 6.35 ERA in June.
So is Martinez capable of regaining his early season form or is he now reverting to his true talent level? The answer can be found by looking into the world of advanced statistics.
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For reference points, let’s compare Martinez to three different pitchers: Texas’ Yovani Gallardo (an above average starter), Texas’ Yu Darvish in his best season (2013), and the game’s top pitcher right now, Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals.
The first aspect of Martinez’ game that is concerning is his inability to put hitters with two strikes away. This season, Martinez is giving up a .233 batting average to hitters with two strikes.
For comparison sake, Yovani Gallardo is allowing only a .200 batting average when the count goes to two strikes. Yu Darvish, in 2013, allowed only a .106 average to hitters with two strikes, and Scherzer allows a .149 average in the same situation.
The pitchers considered aces do not let as many hitters put the ball in play. Rather, they take matters into their own hands and strike out as many hitters as possible thus preventing the opportunity for runners to advance and lessening the chances of defensive errors.
Another way to examine a pitcher’s dominance is his strikeouts per nine innings (K/9).
Max Scherzer has an absurdly high rate of 10.60 K/9 thus far in 2015. Amazingly, in 2013 Darvish had an even better K/9 rate of 11.89 and Gallardo’s K/9 this season is a respectable 6.56.
Meanwhile, Martinez has a K/9 rate of only 5.18. Martinez’ lack of ability to put hitters away has caused him to struggle in another important area, walks.
Because he does not possess an overpowering fastball like Scherzer or an unhittable breaking ball as Darvish does, Martinez must rely upon precise placement of his pitches often making him nibble at the corners of the plate. Knowing that his best pitch is his cutter that runs in on right-handed hitters and away from left-handers, Martinez seems to be far too focused on hitting the right side of the plate (looking from his point of view).
Knowing that if and pitch is over the plate it is likely to be hit, Martinez has begun to walk far too many hitters. His base-on-balls per nine innings (BB/9) is 3.29. Last season, in 24 starts his BB/9 was 3.53 but in April of this year when he was at his best, Martinez’ BB/9 was 2.76.
However, teams have now seen Martinez and scouting reports say for hitters to lay off of the pitches on the corner. Subsequently, his BB/9 climbed to 4.48 in June.
In comparison, Darvish has a career 3.59 BB/9 which is a bit high but is offset by his stellar strikeout rate. Meanwhile, Gallardo, who has a K/9 rate that is not too much greater than Martinez, walks only 2.62 per nine innings. Amazingly, Scherzer has a BB/9 of only 1.14.
Finally, it seems that Martinez’ limited assortment of pitches also hurts him as the game progresses. With an average low-90’s fastball and below average assortment of breaking balls, hitters know that Martinez will live and die with his cut fastball.
As he goes through the lineup for a second or third time, the hitters are confortable with his repertoire but Martinez does not have the confidence in his off-speed pitches to keep the hitters off balance.
Hitters hit only .248 against Martinez through the first 45 pitches of a game. But, on pitches 46 – 60, he surrenders a batting average of .347.
By comparison, with his overpowering fastball, Scherzer allows only a .213 average on pitches 46 – 60. Darvish has up to six different pitches he can throw for strikes keeping hitters guessing throughout the game; in 2013 he allowed only a .204 average on pitches 46 – 60. Meanwhile, Gallardo, who is relentless in his attacking of the strike zone, allows a .241 average during the same pitch range.
Nick Martinez was one of the best pitchers in baseball in April, due in large part to his new approach of trying to use a cut fastball to limit solid contact. However, as teams have adjusted by laying off anything on the corners and forcing him to either throw hittable pitches or risk giving up a walk by nibbling at the corner, he has reverted to what he truly is, a pitcher that should be at best the fifth starter in a quality rotation.
With Matt Harrison’s rehabilitation assignment completed, Martin Perez quickly rounding back into form after last year’s Tommy John surgery and the prospect of a trade for a starter like Cole Hammels still on the table, Martinez is starting to look like the pitcher the Rangers should demote.
Do not be deceived by Martinez’ still decent ERA which is still being kept down by his tremendous April, right now he is the worst pitcher on the Rangers’ rotation and he should be the first pitcher to lose his rotation spot if the Rangers decide to make a move.